The Lavender Hill Mob – Studiocanal

uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/The-Lavender-Hill-Mob-Poster-UK-2024-Restoration.jpeg">Director: Charles Crichton
Screenplay: T.E.B. Clarke
Starring: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James (as Sidney James), Alfie Bass, Marjorie Fielding, Edie Martin, John Salew, Ronald Adam
Country: UK
Running Time: 81 min
BBFC Certificate: U

The Lavender Hill Mob was made close to the middle of an amazing decade of classic comedies made by Ealing Studios between 1947 and 1957. Though the studio made a variety of films between 1930 and 1959, before morphing into a TV studio and back to films again in 1999 and beyond, it was this run of post-war comedies that cemented the Ealing name in the annals of film history, creating its own subgenre, the ‘Ealing comedy’.

The Lavender Hill Mob proved to be one of the studio’s most successful comedies, with the film even performing well in the US. It was popular enough, in fact, to be nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

The script wasn’t planned by the studio in the usual fashion though. The writer T.E.B. Clarke was initially working on the script for what would become Pool of London and had to plot out a gold bullion heist for it. Whilst he had the idea for how to smuggle the gold out of the country using Eiffel Tower souvenirs, he wasn’t sure how the gold could initially be stolen from the bank. So, he went to the Bank of England to ask for some advice. The staff, though initially bemused, surprisingly obliged and proceeded to get swept up in figuring out exactly how someone could do the job! This experience gave Clarke the idea for a new script and The Lavender Hill Mob was born.


Studio head Michael Balcon wasn’t immediately certain it would make a great film but told Clarke to send it to director Charles Crichton to get his opinion. Crichton loved it, so The Lavender Hill Mob went into production. The rest is history.

I dearly loved the handful of Ealing comedies I watched as a child, including The Lavender Hill Mob, but I hadn’t actually seen the film for a long time. So, when Studiocanal announced they were releasing a new 4K restoration of the film in cinemas, UHD and digital, I jumped at the chance of checking it out and reviewing it.

The Lavender Hill Mob tells the story of Henry “Dutch” Holland (Alec Guinness), a seemingly unassuming bank clerk who oversees gold bullion deliveries. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, Henry harbours a secret: a meticulously crafted plan to steal a significant amount of gold and escape to a life of luxury.


There’s one hitch in his plan: getting the gold out of Britain. Enter Alfred Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway), a quirky foundry owner who becomes Henry’s lodger and friend. Together, the unlikely pair devise a clever solution. They will melt the stolen gold down and recast it into miniature Eiffel Tower replicas, disguising the precious metal as souvenirs for easy transport to France. The pair bring the more experienced thieves Lackery Wood (Sid James) and Shorty Fisher (Alfie Bass) on board to help with the legwork and the ‘mob’ set to work.

Though ingenious, the plan hits some bumps along the road but will these be enough to stop the determined wannabe-criminals Henry and Arthur?

The Lavender Hill Mob is about as close to perfection as you can get in a film. Everyone is working at 100% to deliver a film that’s nigh-on impossible to pick fault with.


Clarke’s script is an obvious example. The story is beautifully constructed, taking several twists and turns without ever veering wildly out of control. The dialogue is witty and rib-tickling too – “I propagate British cultural depravity.”

Crichton should also get credit where it’s due though, as the film is so brilliantly controlled. He started out as an editor by trade and this shows in how sharp the film is, with zero flab and a brisk but never rushed pace. The whole thing sails along beautifully. There are some nice visual flourishes too, with a few well-executed long-shots and a dizzying sequence spiralling down the Eiffel Tower that feels very Alfred Hitchcock before the ‘master of suspense’ even made Vertigo.

The cast must not be overlooked either. Guinness and Holloway make a wonderful duo at the centre of the film and their relationship has just as much warmth as any opposite-sex romantic pairing (of which there are none in this lean caper). The actors are geniuses of their craft. You only have to watch the pitch-perfect scene where Holland subtly first introduces the heist idea to Pendlebury to see evidence of this.


A pre-Carry On Sid James is a lot of fun too and he plays off his brother-in-arms Alfie Bass brilliantly. The minor characters making up the rest of the cast are never tossed off either. They’re all given nice quirks via the script or performances. I particularly loved Marjorie Fielding as the hard-boiled-crime-loving Mrs. Chalk.

If you watch very carefully you’ll even spot a couple of soon-to-be stars in minor roles. Audrey Hepburn briefly pops up early on and Robert Shaw makes his cinematic debut in a short sequence too.


I could go on and on extolling the virtues of The Lavender Hill Mob but you’re best off simply sitting down and watching it. Other than some shots of a very different London to today’s, the film hasn’t dated in the slightest. It’s as fresh and delightful as ever. With wonderful characters, sublime performances and a brilliantly constructed script, all commanded by the under-valued Charles Crichton, it charms at every turn. It’s pure cinematic perfection. If you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing now and rectify the problem.


The Lavender Hill Mob is out in select UK cinemas now, then will be released as a 4K UHD Collector’s Edition and on Digital on 22 April as part of Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics series. I watched the Blu-ray disc from the set and it looks fantastic, with a clean, richly textured image. I had no issues with the audio either.

Special Features

– New The Perfect Heist: Benedict Morrison on The Lavender Hill Mob. Benedict is a Senior Lecturer in Literature and Film at Exeter University and author of Eccentric Laughter: Queer Possibilities in Post-War British Film Comedy.
– New London Comedy Film Festival Q&A with Paul Merton
– Those British Faces: Stanley Holloway
– Introduction by Martin Scorsese
– Extract from BEHP Audio interview with Charles Crichton
– Good Afternoon: Mavis interviews T.E.B. Clarke (©1974 Thames Television Ltd, Licensed by FremantleMedia Ltd)
– Audio Commentary by film historian Jeremy Arnold
– Original Trailer
– Behind the Scenes Stills Gallery

Contents of 4K UHD Collector’s Edition:

– 2 discs (UHD and BD)
– 64 page booklet
– 2 posters – new and original artwork designed by Matt Griffin
– 4 pop-art artcards designed by Art & Hue


Included is an audio commentary by Jeremy Arnold. It’s an excellent track, well-researched and compelling, with Arnold giving extensive background to the film and those involved.

Benedict Morrison provides an almost 25-minute essay on the film. He begins by delivering a handy coverall description of the film’s background, then later digs into some analysis, including its possible placement within queer cinema.

The Q&A with Paul Merton is a nice piece. He gives his thoughts on the film, along with describing some stories about the production he’d read from first-hand sources. Some of these are repeated from the commentary but there’s plenty of new material too.

I also enjoyed the interview with T.E.B. Clarke. On top of discussing his career, he tells some entertaining stories about his rebellious youth.

The archival documentary about Stanley Holloway is largely made up of clips from several of his films but it remains a pleasurable watch. A voiceover tells some of his story but it’s largely just a celebration of his work.


An audio interview with Charles Crichton is also included. The director talks about his childhood, his work with Ealing and a little more specifically about The Lavender Hill Mob.

Martin Scorsese also appears with a brief introduction to The Lavender Hill Mob. He describes the film and its background before explaining why he thinks it’s special.

Overall, Studiocanal have produced another excellent new package for an Ealing classic. The new extras (the first three reviewed above) are of great value. I don’t have the old Blu-ray to compare the prints, but I believe it will be worth the upgrade to UHD. If you don’t own it on any format, you have no excuse not to pick it up.


The Lavender Hill Mob - Studiocanal
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